Education Hero Honored
Written by Andres Chavez | SanFernando Sun Staff Reporter
Thursday, 10 June 2010 -- It took 42 years for Sal Castro, who taught at North Hollywood High School before retiring, to go from being denounced as a dangerous radical, an accused felon and losing his teaching job to having a Westlake middle school named in his honor.
Last Saturday, Sal Castro stood with Los Angeles Unified School District dignitaries and cut the ribbon at the brand-new Salvador B. Castro Middle School.
"I guess they ran out of names," Castro replied when asked why they had named a school for him. "I don't know. I appreciate it though. I'm humbled and doubly so because they don't often name schools for classroom teachers, especially ones that are still alive."
In 1968, thousands of Chicano students walked out of East L.A. high schools to protest deplorable conditions and demand a better education. The Walkouts, or Blowouts as they came be known in the Chicano community, marked the beginning of a distinctly Chicano, and later Latino, phase of the Civil Rights struggles of the 60s. The name most closely connected with the Blowouts was Sal Castro.
Branded by the press as a dangerous agitator, and charged by the District Attorney with every felony he could think of, Castro was summarily fired by LAUSD. Enormous community pressure and a strong legal push by activists lawyers and Chicano law students vindicated Castro. The legal charges were dropped and he was reinstated as a classroom teacher.While he remained anathema to many in the LAUSD establishment, Castro was a hero to a whole generation of Chicano students and activists. This history adds irony to the honor Castro received on Saturday.
"I think probably some of the superintendents who are dead when I was around are spinning in their graves. I gave them a hard time, oh hell yes I did. But they were too ornery to realize that what I was telling them needed to be done. It's been proven out. I guess I was way ahead of my time," Castro said.
Over the years, Castro has had many opportunities to leave the high school classroom. He has been offered professorships at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and CSUN. He's been offered positions within the LAUSD administration, including the possibility of becoming a principal. But he has always opted to stay in the classroom. "In my own mind, I didn't raise hell so I could get promoted. I started as a classroom teacher and I finished as a classroom teacher," Castro said. In 2003, after 43 years with LAUSD, Castro retired. Castro continued to work with the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference, an activity he has maintained since the mid-60s.
Castro proudly points out that a recent study of the students who have gone through the program shows that 87 percent not only go to college but graduate. Unfortunately, it was an early victim of LAUSD's budget crisis and the last conference was held in 2008.
But, LAUSD has not completely abandoned the idea of the youth conference. Castro gets a dollar a year plus an office and a telephone to keep the idea of a Chicano Youth Leadership Conference going. But he has no clerical support, a fact Castro deeply laments. "If we can get full time clerical, I know we can raise enough money from the community to continue the good work that the youth conferences do," Castro said. He would like to be able to do four conferences a year. "At least if we can get four conferences, we can make a much larger dent than we have made. Although we've made a hell of a dent anyway."
Castro remains a popular speaker on college campuses, from California schools like UCLA and CSUN to the eastern elite schools like Wellesley and Princeton. He says he sees fire in the eyes of the students. "The struggle goes on.A lot of people say the movement is dead, bullsh**!" Castro exclaimed. "(There's) the excitement to take up leadership in the Latino community, that's fantastic. There was this desire to be the leadership, that's really going to move us into the 21st century. I've been to a ton of schools and there's a lot of desire and a lot of excitement for leadership in our community. I hope the students of Sal Castro Middle School fill up the ranks of those kids that are there now."
At 76, Castro has lost none of the fire and charisma which made him such an inspiration to his students. He says he wouldn't change a thing. "I would do it over and over again. I have no regrets. A lot of good changes have happened, all for the better."
Honran Héroe Educativo
Written by Andres Chavez, Reportero del San Fernando Sun
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 -- Tuvieron que pasar 42 años para que Sal Castro, quien fue maestro en la secundaria North Hollywood antes de jubilarse, pasara de ser un peligroso radical y un criminal acusado hasta perder su empleo de enseñanza a tener una escuela intermedia nombrada en su honor. El sábado pasado, Castro se unió a otros dignatarios del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Angeles [LAUSD] y rompió el listón de la nueva escuela Salvador B. Castro Middle School.
"Creo que ya no sabían qué nombre ponerle", dijo Castro cuando se le preguntó por qué habían nombrado una escuela en su honor. "No lo sé. Aprecio el gesto, me honra y doblemente porque generalmente no nombran a escuelas en honor de maestro, especialmente aquellos aún vivos".
En 1968, miles de estudiantes Chicanos se salieron de secundarias del Este de Los Angeles para protestar las condiciones deplorables en los planteles y demandar una mejor educación. Los "Walkouts" o "Blowouts, como se conocieron esas mar-